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Opinion

PBBM should clean up PCSO

TO THE QUICK - Jerry S. Tundag - The Freeman

If you believe the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, a total of 433 people jointly won the P236 million 6/55 Grand Lotto jackpot last October 1. Pressed to explain the huge number of winners to an incredulous public, PCSO GM Melquiades Robles said "it may be odd but it was just a natural occurrence." To offer such a lame and cavalier excuse only adds insult to the injury suffered by millions of bettors who felt cheated.

There is nothing natural in having 433 jackpot winners in a game that onenews.ph said, citing a website dedicated to various betting results, the odds of winning are one in 28,989,675. Why, there probably has never been an instance since the PCSO started the lotto that the number of joint winners to a single jackpot exceeded more than 10. If Robles insists, he should publish when multiple winners exceeding 10 happened.

Robles cannot hide behind the blanket excuse that all things are possible unless he is also willing to accept the possibility that some hanky-panky was indeed behind the improbable results. Senator Koko Pimentel, a mathematician before becoming a lawyer, politely called the results "strange" and is calling for a Senate investigation. It is about time the law and justice be brought to bear on the PCSO.

In fact, not just the Senate and possibly also the House of Represenatives, but no less than the president himself, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., should as well commit his hand to a separate investigation. The PCSO is under the Office of the President. The millions of bettors who felt cheated also make up a huge chunk of the 31 million voters who made him their leader. He needs to show that leadership now.

What happened was too blatant to ignore. But more than that, it became too blatant because for so long some people have been getting away with impunity. The multiple lotto jackpot winners is novel. Before, the strange things happened only to Swertres results, such that an improbable combination like 1-1-1 would not only come out but would come out in improbable succession, for instance in the 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. draws.

The suspicion is that syndicates are able to corner most of the bets on these strange numbers with uncanny timing, as if they knew what the numbers are and when they are coming out. But these suspicions will just remain suspicions unless Marcos takes up the cudgels for the millions of bettors. He has to do it himself because the history of congressional investigations is seldom satisfactory and inspiring.

The suspicion with regard to the huge number of lotto jackpot winners is that the P236-million prize became very tempting. But to satisfy the temptation, there has to be a real winner to collect the prize plus a "ghost" winner to split the prize with. Still, that would mean too huge a chunk to the real winner and considerably less for the ghost. What better way than to have one real winner sharing the prize with 432 ghosts.

That way, the real winner only gets something like P500,000 (P236 million divided by 433) not including taxes. The bulk of what remains from the P236 million all goes to the 432 remaining ghosts who nobody would be surprised if they just turned out to be fewer. All these, of course, are just conjectures and suspicions and have no basis in fact, unless the investigations turn up anything otherwise.

A particular investigation by the president himself would be heartening. Marcos has the political capital to turn everything upside down at the PCSO no matter who gets hurt. It is bad enough that millions are forced to turn to games of chance to fuel their hopes for a better life. It is worse when such hopes are dashed underfoot by those greedy enough to prey on those who latch their future to what a lousy P20 might bring.

PCSO

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